Wickford Tales


The trooper smiled and said, “What have you got against me?” and kept on walking.

Pete shot him between the eyes. He dropped dead instantly.

Pete looked up to see Mother rushing down the driveway screaming at him not to shoot the trooper, and then he realized what he had done. He ran across the barnyard to the old stone icehouse and barricaded himself in it. His poor dog followed him in.

Just then Ed and the two maids came back from the parade. Mother was beside herself with grief and terror. They got other state troopers and had to shoot Pete and his poor dog to death before they could get at the trooper’s body in front of Pete’s shed. Pete had them covered from the icehouse and there was no other way to get him out.



Such quantities of everything! In the fall, getting ready for winter and collecting all the food to be stored took much planning and lots of arguing and arranging. Our cellar at Cedar Spring was large, and under the high windows along the south side of the cellar were the barrels of molasses, hard cider, sweet cider, salt pork, and oysters in their shells. The oysters were the last things put in the cellar, and winter was really at hand when my father and Ben and Pete carried the big barrel of oysters and seaweed down cellar.

Every Sunday the oysters were fed a handful of bran and they made a sucking noise eating quite plain to be heard. Whether the ones on the bottom of the barrel got any bran, I don’t know, but as the ones on top were the first eaten, their turn came soon enough. Pete would ask Ben if he had given the oysters their “soss.” He was so kind-hearted that he didn’t want even oysters to go hungry.

It was Ben’s job to attend to the barrels and open oysters and pick out the salt pork. Once during a party my father took some men down cellar to get some more oysters and show them how the oysters were fed, and they fed the bran to the salt-pork barrel. Mother didn’t stop teasing Father about that for weeks. It didn’t seem to hurt the salt pork any.

We had hams and bacon hanging in a wine room and the barrel of Medford rum was locked in there too.

Housekeeping was easier then, for the same day every week we would have the same thing. Every Saturday night’s dinner consisted of oysters (or Little Necks in the months with no R) on the half shell, then a clear soup, then broiled live lobsters, a green vegetable, and of course johnnycake, and Indian pudding with thick cream for dessert. Sunday dinner was always a thick soup, roast beef with grated horseradish in cream, and a green vegetable, Yorkshire pudding, and Floating Island with jelly on the islands. Thursday lunch was roast chicken, and that night—cook’s night out—cold chicken, always so good.

Almost every Sunday evening in the summer, at Whale Rock, we used to have a clambake. Ed Standeven, a past master at clambakes, prepared them. (There are master clambake creators, just as there are master chefs and master brewers.) He gathered his seaweed at morning low tide and started his fire to heat the stones. Then he wrapped all the contents of the bake in cheesecloth squares—the clams, lobsters, chickens, potatoes, and sweet corn.

After the stones were red-hot, the wood was raked off and a blanket of fresh green seaweed laid on the stones. Quickly on top of this were put the wrapped young split broilers. Then, after another layer of seaweed, the potatoes and sweet corn, then more seaweed and the lobsters. More seaweed still, then the clams—about two quarts to a cheesecloth square. The last layer of seaweed was spread over the clams, and over the whole mound was fastened a big piece of canvas or an old sail. Baking time was about two hours.

The bake was eaten in the order it was uncovered—clams first and chickens last. We always provided a whole lobster for each person, and a quart of clams, and usually didn’t have enough. Once, a few years ago, a Russian brought by a friend ate twenty lobsters. He simply grabbed a lobster, twisted the tail and pulled out the meat, and ate it grandly, throwing away the claws and the body.

There were incidentals at the bakes—clam broth, for instance, and brown bread and butter, something to drink, and dessert. The broth was made by steaming a bushel of clams in a big kettle with a cupful of water over the fire made of the raked-off wood. This took about twenty minutes and was ready by the time the cocktails were finished. We usually had soft drinks and beer with the bake, unless it was a wedding bake or a very fancy one, when we had champagne. We considered watermelon or some other fruit the best dessert, but sometimes we sank so low as to have ice cream cones.

My father always used to insist on having johnnycakes and cider with a clambake, but he always had both for dinner every night and johnnycakes for breakfast every morning. Every meal that he ate at home he had johnnycakes.… They were, incidentally, the first food Father and Mother had after they arrived at Cedar Spring on their honeymoon. Father made them in the fireplace that first evening, for there was no stove.